"The stigma really never went away," says manager Kayla Litz

By Tara Fowler
Updated January 08, 2015 03:25 PM
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Credit: Courtesy Coming Attractions Bridal

A visit from a nurse with Ebola was the kiss of death for one Ohio bridal shop.

Coming Attractions Bridal & Formal, the Akron store visited by Dallas nurse Amber Vinson, is closing its doors in May after 30 years in business.

“It’s not what we planned for or expected to happen,” manager Kayla Litz tells PEOPLE. “The stigma really never went away. We became the Ebola store.”

Vinson, 30, visited the store looking for bridesmaids dresses just days before she was diagnosed with the deadly disease last October. After hearing the news, owner Anna Younker shuttered the shop that night, keeping it closed for the duration of the 21-day quarantine period and even calling in a cleaning team.

There wasn’t a need for that much caution. After all, Ebola is only spread through direct contact with the blood or body fluids of an infected person, according to the Centers for Disease Control. And Vinson was healthy the day she visited the bridal shop.

But Younker hoped her overabundance of caution would be enough to give the public peace of mind. It wasn’t.

“After we reopened we had a massive sale,” says Litz. “It was successful. We were hoping things would turn around after that.”

But the shop never recovered. “People would call and ask, ‘Is it okay to come in the store?’ ” says Litz. “They would just want to stand in the doorway when they needed to pick something up.”

So what happened? Litz says the store was relying on the insurance company to cover the many costs from the fallout, like cleaning the shop. Unfortunately, they weren’t covered for Ebola.

“The insurance company had a bacterial/viral clause that said they do not cover that kind of thing,” says Litz. “We thought they would help us. And then that completely fell through.”

The employees of Coming Attractions were also relying on someone else who let them down: Vinson.

“We really thought, ‘She’s going to stick by us, she’ll show people everything’s okay,’ ” says Litz.

But she didn’t. After recovering from the virus, Vinson sent the store a certified letter from her lawyer asking for a refund on the bridesmaids dresses she’d purchased that October, joining the many other women who wanted their money back from the “Ebola store.”

“It’s like, you too?” says Litz, 33. “You don’t want to shop here?”

According to Litz, Vinson wanted a refund “to avoid any further stigma.”

Says Litz: “We wanted her business. We’ve never done anything to make her feel we didn’t want her here. We never blamed her.

“And then the letter came and it was just like, wow,” Litz adds. “Who thought that was okay?”

The store had been expanding prior to Vinson’s visit. Litz says they’d invested in tuxedo rentals and bought a new line of fall dresses. “This was not the plan,” the manager says. “Closing the store was not the plan.

“The financial loss was so great,” she adds. “People can’t even imagine.”

In a Facebook post on Wednesday afternoon, Younker thanked her customers and staff for their support.

“Your kind words and loyalty have been great comfort,” she wrote on the store’s page. “The decision for me to close was not easy for me.”

Vinson was unable to be reached for comment.